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Reaction: Study questions whether digital leisure reading improves reading comprehension in younger students

A meta-analysis by the University of Valencia has studied the links between leisure reading habits on digital devices and the reading comprehension of students of different ages. The research - which is based on 25 studies published between 2000 and 2022 involving some 470,000 students from different countries - concludes that in the early stages (primary and 1st and 2nd ESO in the Spanish case) there were small negative relationships between digital leisure reading and reading comprehension, while in later stages (3rd and 4th ESO, baccalaureate and university) the relationship became slightly positive. The research is published in Review of Educational Research.

14/12/2023 - 14:03 CET
Expert reactions

Natalia I. Kucirkova - pantallas EN

Natalia I. Kucirkova

Professor of Early Childhood Education and Development at the University of Stavanger (Norway)

Science Media Centre Spain

I find the study's conclusion that "leisure digital reading does not seem to pay off in terms of reading comprehension, at least as much as traditional print reading does," unsubstantiated by their findings. The authors acknowledge in the Limitations section that there is significant heterogeneity across effect sizes, preventing them from drawing conclusions across age groups. Therefore, it is questionable to assert an effect across the lifespan. Notably, the majority of participants in their analyzed sample were middle school (35.89%) and high school (35.89%) students.

Note that the authors define leisure digital reading habits as those typically observed in this age group, encompassing activities such as time spent on digital texts for social communication (e.g., instant messaging, online chatting, emailing, checking social media) or informative-linear reading (e.g., searching for information on the Internet, browsing websites, blogs, or forums, reading e-books, e-magazines, or e-comics). It is crucial to differentiate this type of digital reading from interactive digital books designed for young children, which guide them through images, texts with embedded questions, or reading supports to enhance comprehension.

In sum: The study's conclusion that "leisure digital reading does not seem to benefit reading comprehension as much as traditional print reading across lifespan" lacks adequate support, given the acknowledged heterogeneity in effect sizes. The majority of participants in the analysed sample were middle and high school students. Additionally, the authors do not differentiate leisure digital reading habits (associated with activities like social communication and informative-linear reading), from interactive digital books designed for young children that provide reading comprehension support.

The author has declared they have no conflicts of interest
Do New Forms of Reading Pay Off? A Meta-Analysis on the Relationship Between Leisure Digital Reading Habits and Text Comprehension
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
  • People
  • Meta-analysis
Review of Educational Research
Publication date

Lidia Altamura et al.

Study types:
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
  • People
  • Meta-analysis
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